AMORITES, the name given by the Israelites to the earlier inhabitants of Palestine. They are regarded as a powerful people, giants in stature “like the height of the cedars,” who had occupied the land east and west of the Jordan. The Biblical usage appears to show that the terms “Canaanites” and “Amorites” were used synonymously, the former being characteristic of Judaean, the latter of Ephraimite and Deuteronomic writers. A distinction is sometimes maintained, however, when the Amorites are spoken of as the people of the past, whereas the Canaanites are referred to as still surviving. The old name is an ethnic term, evidently to be connected with the terms Amurru and Amar, used by Assyria and Egypt respectively. In the spelling Mar-tu, the name is as old as the first Babylonian dynasty, but from the 15th century B.C. and downwards its syllabic equivalent Amurru is applied primarily to the land extending northwards of Palestine as far as Kadesh on the Orontes. The term “Canaan,” on the other hand, is confined more especially to the southern district (from Gebal to the south of Palestine). But it is possible that the terms at an early date were interchangeable, Canaan being geographical and Amorite ethnical. The wider extension of the use of Amurru by the Babylonians and Assyrians is complicated by the fact that it was even applied to a district in the neighbourhood of Babylonia. If the people of the first Babylonian dynasty (about 21st century B.C.) called themselves “Amorites,” as Ranke seems to have shown, it is possible that some feeling of common origin was recognized at that early date.
See Ranke, Bab. Exped. Pennsylvania, series D, iii. 33 sqq.; and for general information, W. M. Muller, Asien u. Europa, 217 sqq.; Pinches, Old Testament, Index (s.v..) The people of Amar are represented on the Egyptian monuments with yellow skin, blue eyes, red eyebrows and beard, whence it has been conjectured that they were akin to the Libyans (Sayce, Expositor, July 1888). Senir, the “Amorite’, name of Hermon (Deut. iii. 9). appears to be identical with Saniru in the Lebanon, mentioned by Shalmaneser Il. In the Old Testament the chief references may be classified as follows:--primitive inhabitants generally, Is. xvii. 9 (on text see comm.), Ezek. xvi. 3; a people W. of Jordan, Josh. x. 5; Judg. i. 34-36; Deut. i. 7, 44; Gen. xiv. 7, xlviii. 22: E. of Jordan, Num. xxi. 13, 21 sqq.; Josh. ii. 10, xxiv. 8; Judg. x. 8.
Source: 1911 encyclopedia.
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